Review: Naughty (Camden Fringe)

Running until 22 August in the Camden Fringe, Andrew Houghton’s semi-autobiographical play, Naughty, is an exploration of growing up gay and dealing with unwanted attention.

Andrew is sixteen when he goes to college. He’s a self-described “baby gay”, a nervous and quiet lad who wants to be an actor. His first boyfriend, Jake, is confident, and all is well until a breach in trust sparks attention elsewhere.

This is a story of a naive young man who is harassed by someone in a position of power, groomed and abused through texts which are at best manipulative and at worst sexually inappropriate.

Naughty is a disturbing piece of work which does display moments of black humour but also several gut punches within the narrative. Seeing the texts and screen and hearing them underlines how creepy they are.

The predatory teacher who ‘befriends’ Andrew and gives him attention feels damaged himself, his remarks increasingly unpalatable, yet it takes a pair of external interventions to stop the cycle and bring matters to a head.

Promotional image for Naughty

Houghton’s writing is largely strong. A couple of moments, although well-presented (the Irish mother talking about grandad; the STD clinic) seem a little superfluous. The bulk of the show, though, is impressive – building in tension as Andrew’s nervous habits flag his insecurity. It is a well-controlled performance.

Naughty is sparsely staged: a screen displays the text exchanges between Andrew and Kevin; Andrew utilises one battered chair to represent a range of settings from inside a car to a sweaty club dancefloor.

Naughty treads a similar path to previous plays about the online harassment of males (Tom Ratcliffe’s Velvet is closest, also Richard Gadd’s Baby Reindeer), but displays a strong sense of survival and celebration of self in its closing moments.

Fringe rating: ****

Naughty is on at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town until 22 August – book your tickets here.

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